Built in 9,000 BC is 6,500 years older than Stonehenge. It has been considered the world’s oldest temple and even thought by some to be the site of the Garden of Eden.
The purpose of the structures is not yet clear. Excavator Klaus Schmidt believed that they had been early neolithic sanctuaries.
Göbekli Tepe is an archaeological site at the top of a mountain ridge in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of modern-day Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Urfa (in ancient times Edessa ). The tell has a height of 15 m (49 ft) and is about 300 m (984 ft) in diameter. It is approximately 760 m (2,493 ft) above sea level. It was excavated by a German archaeological team under the direction of Klaus Schmidt from 1996 until his death in 2014.
The tell includes two phases of ritual use dating back to the 10th – 8th millennium BCE. During the first phase, pre-pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), circles of massive T-shaped stone pillars were erected. More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Each pillar* has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and a weight of up to 20 tons. They are fitted into sockets that were hewn out of the bedrock. In the second phase, Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB), the erected pillars are smaller and stood in rectangular rooms with floors of polished lime. The site was abandoned after the PPNB-period. Younger structures date to classical times.
*The relief’s (carvings) on the pillars include foxes, lions, cattle, wild boars, herons, ducks, scorpions, ants and snakes. Some of the relief’s had been deliberately erased…
by Capers Jones
Artifacts and structures that seem to be out of a normal chronological sequence are always interesting. In Turkey a large stone complex called Gobekli Tepe was recently discovered in 1963 that has been dated to be the first known large stone structure created by humans: older than any other known structure on the planet!
Carbon dating of vegetable materials from the site shows the age of the oldest structures at Gobekli Tepe to be somewhere between 9,000 and 11,000 years old. Apparently the complex was built and used during three separate periods over about a thousand years with different kinds and styles of stone work. More recent stone structures from Roman and Byzantine eras are also found at the site in the higher layers above the original construction site.
To date only about 5% of the site has been explored and excavated. The true purpose of the site is not known but it has been assumed by archaeologists to be some kind of a temple or religious structure due to the massive size of the quarried stones and to the carvings on some of them. An artistic reconstruction of the Gobleki Tepe site is shown below:
A photograph of the site as it currently appears is shown below:
At the time of probable original construction the site was older than most of the factors associated with human civilizations:
- It is older than the wheel
- It is older than agriculture and farming
- It is older than animal domestication
- It is older than metal tools
- It is older than local pottery
- It is older than any known towns or villages
The technologies that did exist at the time of Gobekli Tepe included the use of fire and the use of cloth or wool for garments. Stone tools were the only ones available for quarrying and carving.
Although pottery from China has been found that is over 20,000 years old there was no pottery at Gobekli Tepe and construction is classified as “pre-pottery Neolithic” or PPN. Although the location of Gobekli Tepe is arid today at the time of construction it was probably forested and had more rainfall. The moister climate would have supported enough local wild animals and wild plants to have provided food sources.
Apparently the people who built Gobekli Tepe existed by eating wild plants and wild animals since neither farming nor domestic animals had been developed at the time of construction. They must have used stone tools because metal had not yet been mined or used for construction.
Nobody knows what kinds of shelters the builders lived in or whether or not they had a settled community. However due to the large size of the Gobekli Tepe site and the large size of the stone pillars, some of which are 20 feet high, no doubt several hundred people must have been involved in construction. It is astonishing that such sophisticated stone work and such advanced artistic skills seem to pre-date many other attributes of modern civilization.
Some additional images of Gobekli Tepe are shown below:
To show the extreme age of the Gobekli Tepe site following is a list of the approximate ages of other interesting stone structures from around the world:
- Gobekli Tepe 7250 BC
- Barnenez (France) 4800 BC
- Stone Temples from Malta 3700 BC
- Sechin Bajo (first stone building in Peru) 3500 BC
- Baalbek stones (Lebanon) 3000 BC
- Pyramid of Djoser (first Egyptian pyramid) 2700 BC
- Caral-Supe (Peru) 2600 BC
- Stonehenge in England 2600 BC
- Great Pyramid of Giza 2500 BC
- Knossos in Greece 2000 BC
Not only is Gobekli Tepe the oldest known stone structure but it is older than the second oldest by about 2,500 years and older than the Egyptian pyramids by almost 5,000 years.
Due to the apparent sophistication of the stone carving and bas relief artistic images, it is obvious that the work done at Gobekli Tepe must have had a long period of evolution. The builders must have had many centuries of older craftsmen to draw from and a long evolution of stone work and artistic carvings.
The labor required to build Gobekli Tepe was significant. Not only were large columns cut from local stones but they were set into matching sockets that were carved into bedrock to a depth of about four feet. This was not trivial stone work.
Also carving the bas relief images on the columns required removing the surrounding stone surface of the columns to a depth of perhaps half an inch. This also must have been labor intensive with only sand and stone tools.
Because of the apparent maturity of the stone work at Gobekli Tepe it is possible that the true origins of the Gobekli Tepe carvings are at least 1,000 years older than the construction of the actual site. There must have been several generations of stone masons who perfected the skills used at Gobleki Tepe. The work looks like it was done by skilled stone masons and not by amateurs. Unfortunately there are no older sites yet discovered. But the sophistication of Gobleki Tepe indicates that probably older sites may have existed.
It is also curious that there is a gap of several thousand years between the construction of Gobekli Tepe and any other ancient stone structures. No doubt there were stone buildings constructed somewhere in the intervals but to date none have been discovered.
Gobleki Tepe is an interesting structure that shows very early but sophisticated skills in both large-stone construction and also in realistic artistic rendering of stone surfaces. The culture that created Gobekli Tepe must have been fairly sophisticated in many ways, but no other information about how they lived has yet been discovered.
- Gobekli Tepe – 6000 years older than Stonehenge
- My thoughts about Gobekli Tepe
- Top 10 Civilizations That Mysteriously Disappeared
- NG Article
Dating to at least 8000 B.C., this life-size sculpture was discovered in southeastern Turkey, nine miles from Göbekli Tepe, the world’s oldest temple. As hunter-gatherers made the transition to a complex social structure, depictions of humans—or gods—began to appear.
Artifact photographed at Sanliurfa Museum, Turkey